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MOVING CLOUD "Foxglove" Green Linnet GLCD1186

A lot of imagination has gone into the titles of these two basically traditional CDs. The covers don't exactly have "Traditional!" written all over them either. However, it's what's inside that counts.

"Epona" ("Protector of horses and their mounts", apparently) is the 12th Tannies album, and in many ways it's just like the last half dozen: firmly traditional, with great instrumentals and two or three new songs. Clocking in at just under 55 minutes, we have seven songs (some with tunes attached) and five instrumental sets. Although the singing on this album is probably the best yet, I still think the tunes are the band's strong suit: but it's hard to fault a selection of songs including the work of Robert Burns and Robert Tannahill. The two songs by Roy Gullane are very different from each other, but both contain interesting social insight and vaguely political comment. They're also packed with marine references and imagery, continuing Roy's obsession with ships and the sea: my favourite line is "Noo there's fish in the river and chips oan its banks".

On the instrumental side, the fiddle of John Martin and pipes of Duncan J. Nicholson lead a line-up unchanged from the last album. Highlights include the nicely understated "McGregor of Rora" set where the pipes back the fiddle on a haunting slow air which gradually gathers pace and then breaks into a pipe jig with a twist, or the rather brasher "Loch Tayside" set which finishes with the great "New Reel". It must be said that the instrumental tracks are not as brash you'd expect, but they're none the worse for that.

"Foxglove" is slightly shorter at 53 minutes, with 16 instrumental tracks and no songs. This is the second Moving Cloud album on Green Linnet (there was an own-label tape once too), and it's a definite improvement on the first one. Moving Cloud are basically a dance band, but as with so many Irish dance bands they boast some of the best traditional musicians in the world (e.g. Paul Brock on button box and Kevin Crawford on flute, to name my favourites).

The material is mainly traditional Irish with three sets of traditional North American tunes and a couple of modern Scottish compositions, plus a waltz from the Parisian accordion tradition. Moving Cloud are inventive in their arrangements, with lots of medleys and slower tunes: to quote Sandy Brechin, "Sometimes it Doesn't Work" as on "Siul a Ghra" and the mazurka medley, but most of the time the results are good. Highlights include "The Maid Who Left the County" and "Knocknagoshel" sets, the "Swing Waltz" accordion solo, and the two sets featuring Gerry "banjo" O'Connor. Irish Music Magazine gave this album quite a poor review, claiming that the O'Connor tracks were the only good points: I don't agree, but they're certainly among the best.

Two good solid traditional albums, then, with some of the finest musicians in the business. How can you go wrong?

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 30 of The Living Tradition magazine.